Skip to Main Content

BIO507 (Fall 2020): Recent Advances and Current Problems in Biological Sciences: Search Strategies & Tips

Fall 2020, R. Dorit

The Deep Web

A vast majority of the web (90%!) cannot be accessed via search engines like Google. (2.26 minutes) From Mashable.

Boolean (connecting keywords) & Wildcards

2 short videos introduce Boolean search techniques:

[How Library Stuff Works, McMaster Libraries]

Mind Mapping Worksheet

Search Tips

Whether you are searching for books in the Five College Library Catalog, or searching for scholarly articles in a library database, it pays to be organized as you start your search. Break down searching into a three step process.

Write down as much information about your topic as possible. (You can use encyclopedias and other reference books to help gather background information). Answer the following questions:

  • What is your topic?
  • What questions do you have?
  • What do you know? What don't you know?

Then, try to summarize what you are looking for in one or two sentences.

EXAMPLE: I would like to learn whether newborns inherit their mother's microbiome.

Using the information in Step 1, list the main concepts of your topic.

EXAMPLE: newborns, microbiome, inheritance

Now create a list of synonyms of your key concepts. Think broadly, think narrowly! This step is helping you expand your search by expressing your query in a variety of ways. If you get too many results, then you can work on focusing your search.















*=Wildcard; can be used to search for variations at end of word


You will use the word lists you developed in Step 3 to create search strategies. Use "OR" between synonyms and "AND" between concepts. For instance:

(newborn* OR infant* OR baby) AND (microbiome) AND (inherit*) AND (mother OR maternal)

 Watch video (3 minutes):  Crafting a Savvy Search Strategy (UCLA Library)